Patrick Merrell’s New York Times crossword, “Actually….” — Jenni’s write-up
This is a fun theme despite – or maybe because of – the mansplainy vibe. The fill is slightly clunkier than I expect from Patrick; overall, it’s still enjoyable.
“Actually….” leads in to the clue for each theme answer, and they’re not precisely what you might think.
- 4d [… It’s a rodent native to the Andes] is the GUINEA PIG. Not a pig. Not from Guinea.
- 16d [… It’s a legume] is a PEANUT.
- 25a [… It abuts water on only one of its four sides] is RHODE ISLAND.
- 32a [… It’s an ellipse] is ST PETER‘S SQUARE.
- 59a [… It was predominantly German] is the HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE.
- 83a [… It’s an American name for a German game] is CHINESE CHECKERS.
- 85d [… They’re lousy places to sleep] are REST ROOMS.
- 100d [… It usually comes from sheep] is CATGUT
- 108a [… They’re of Indian origin] are ARABIC NUMERALS.
- 118a [… It’s a woodwind from Central Europe] is an ENGLISH HORN.
A few other things:
- I had 4a [Russian novelist Maxim] as GORKY, not GORKI, which made 8d [Overruns] far more challenging than it should have been (it’s INFESTS).
- 57d [Pixelatedness, for short] is a weird clue for RES, which is not great fill to start with.
- The only LIME PIE I’m familiar with is KEY LIME PIE. It looks odd without the modifier.
- 82d [A rancher might pull one over a calf] is, apparently, BOOT. Huh?
- I think actual journalists might object to seeing ARIANNA Huffington identified as one.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that S STARS are cool red giants.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Coloring Books” – Jim Q’s writeup
This puzzle reminded me that there are a lot of books out there that I haven’t read. There’s still some classics I need to get to (still haven’t cracked the cover of Moby Dick) before I tackle some of the unfamiliar ones in this puzzle though.
THEME: Book titles that include the colors of the rainbow
- 24A [Anita Diamant novel about a biblical shelter used by
midwives] THE RED TENT.
- 33A [Anthony Burgess novel adapted into a 1971 Oscar-nominated film] A CLOCKWORK ORANGE.
- 54A [Laila Ibrahim novel with a flowery title] YELLOW CROCUS.
- 69A [Stephen King novel adapted into a 1999 Oscar-nominated film] THE GREEN MILE.
- 89A [Melissa de la Cruz novel about wealthy vampire families] BLUE BLOODS.
- 124A [Richelle Mead novel featuring alchemy and magic] THE INDIGO SPELL.
- 131A [Alyxandra Harvey novel about a young woman who can see ghosts] HAUNTING VIOLET.
- 102D [With 108 Down, educational show hosted by LeVar Burton … and an alternate title for this puzzle] READING RAINBOW.
I’ve read exactly two of these, I’m sure neither of which was covered on Reading Rainbow (THE GREEN MILE and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE). The only other one I’ve heard of is BLUE BOODS. The rest, I think, were new to me. However, all titles were inferable, thanks in large part to the theme and the ROY G. BIV order that was respected in the puzzle from north to south.
The left/right symmetry allows for theme entry placement that wouldn’t be possible in a traditional grid, though it was still funky to find the last two themers stacked on one another (and impressively so with very little resulting crud in the fill!).
- 37D [Fruit named for an Ohio township (rather than Italy’s capital)] ROME APPLE. Ooh! Trivia clue that also helps figure out the answer!
- 38D [When people may treat themselves to sweets] CHEAT DAYS. I think it should be “cheat season” after Thanksgiving.
- 36A [Inspector Gadget’s foe] DR. CLAW. Really, really wanted to type DR. EVIL.
- 79A [Business with oil stocks?] SPA. Good one. A SPA is “stocked” with types of oils.
- 81A [Takes sides?] ORDERS. Feels like a stretch… when one ORDERS at a restaurant, does it mean one is ordering a side dish as well? The “takes” part of the clue is funky too, as ordering doesn’t involve the taking part.
All in all, a fine puzzle. I just wish I wasn’t left feeling so illiterate due to my ignorance of so many of the titles.
I was very surprised by the straightforwardness of this week’s offering too! Last week’s prediction that today’s would be a curveball was completely amiss.
Happy Sunday! And enjoy your snow day fellow North-easterners!
Gary Larson’s LA Times crossword, “Name Tags” – Jenni’s write-up
Some words are also names! Today’s theme clues describe two-word phrases as if they were names.
- 21a [Inspiring Gates?] is ELECTRIC BILL.
- 24a [Upright Fosse?] is PLUMB BOB.
- 49a [Refined Bailey?] is CULTURED PEARL.
- 51a [Careless Montana?] is SLOPPY JOE. I thought of “Hannah” first. Wrong.
- 64a [Vividly expressive Carney?] is GRAPHIC ART.
- 67a [Outgoing Macdonald?] is SOCIAL NORM. This is my favorite.
- 86a [Slothful Sontag?] is a LAZY SUSAN. I filled this one without any crossings.
- 89a [Seafaring Davis?] is (are?) NAUTICAL MILES.
- 113a [Forthcoming Tyson?] is an OPEN MIKE. There are a lot of Mikes in the world. Surely they could have found one who is not a convicted rapist. Mike Wallace? Mike Rowe? Mike Posner? Come on.
- 115a [Forceful Kelly?] is DOMINANT GENE.
I found the theme mostly entertaining except for 113a, if not particularly challenging.
A few other things:
- 2d [Game played in an anagram of itself] is POLO, and that’s not quite right. Water POLO is played in a pool, and that’s different. This is a tortured and inaccurate clue when there’s a perfectly good woman’s name that would have served.
- 15d [“Streamers” playwright] is David RABE. That was a gimme for me; I suspect some people found it obscure.
- 32a [Something read to the rowdy?] is the RIOT ACT. I’m not sure why this has a question mark since that’s the meaning of the term, unless it’s a play on RIOT and rowdy, in which case it’s just odd.
- Things I know because I’m married to a geologist: 76a [Period of the first dinosaurs] is TRIASSIC.
- The MHO is no longer used in science; it lives on in crosswords.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: the the EROICA symphony was originally dedicated to Napoleon.
I leave you with the immortal PEARL Bailey.